What to Know Before Adopting a Dog

Before you bring home a pet you’re not ready for, hit the paws button and ask yourself these things first.
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woman holding leash with golden retriever

Is My Home Dog-Ready?

If you rent, check whether your lease allows you to have a dog and whether there are size or breed restrictions. Also, ask neighbors about their experiences as dog owners in your neighborhood, says Kristen Winterhalter, a shelter outreach specialist at Petfinder.com. Are there pet-friendly restaurants close by? Are the streets good for walking? “This will help you imagine what life with a pup will be like,” she says.

Can I Afford This?

You’re generally looking at between $395 and $2,500 in fees for adoption, microchipping, and licensing the first year and nearly $2K each year after for things like wellness visits, food, and toys. And that’s not including training, grooming, or veterinary care, says Winterhalter.

How Lazy Am I?

“Ask the shelter about a dog’s energy level and how much activity the dog may need,” says Rena Lafaille, the administrative director of the ASPCA Adoption Center in New York City. “Some breeds require lots of exercise to remain healthy, while others may be content with a few walks a day.”

Will I Be Home Enough?

“Dogs want to be close to their people, so you should know how much you’ll be available for a pup,” says Jodi Andersen, cofounder of the adoption site How I Met My Dog. “If you can’t physically be there, you need to plan so that the dog does get out to socialize, whether it’s with someone you hire or at playdates with a friend.”

Who's My Vet?

Survey fellow dog parents for vet options, or search by zip code using an online resource like Vetstreet.com. And always ask for any medical records on the dog you adopt, says Andersen. That way, your pup can put his best paw forward.